A Different Type of Technology Consultant
There’s a new breed of consultants emerging in technology vendors. And they’re upending the traditional sales process.
The change begins with being crystal clear about what the customer considers success to be. And that isn’t getting the vendor’s product working! The customer needs the product to work, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll achieve success. The customer always has a bigger outcome. The product is a means to achieving that bigger outcome.
In the world of subscription pricing and recurring revenue, the vendor’s revenue is tied to the success the customer has. Let’s summarise this idea….
How much a customer spends next time…
..is driven by how much success they have this time.
And success for the customer requires achievement of the bigger business outcome. We call this bigger business outcome a Success Outcome.
The Success Outcome is the real focus of the customer.
Technology products drive change in the customer’s business. By definition. Otherwise, the customer wouldn’t invest in them. But achieving the business change requires more than getting the product working. New processes may be needed. The staff may need new skills. And partners may play a different role.
Customers often aren’t great at getting all these extra elements right. And so, they fail to achieve the Success Outcome (the bigger business outcome). Even if the vendor’s product works as it should. But, even though the failure isn’t the vendor’s fault, it will cost the vendor revenue. The customer may cancel the subscription. Or keep using the product, but not grow usage. Either way, the vendor’s revenue suffers. Because the customer didn’t achieve success. And how much a customer spends next time is driven by how much success they had this time.
Because customers often aren’t good at all the other things required to achieve the Success Outcome, a new type of consultant has emerged. Success Consultants.
Success Consultants understand everything required by the customer to achieve the Success Outcome. They don’t need to be product experts. Other people in the vendor fill this role. Success Consultants have a different role – helping the customer do everything needed to achieve the Success Outcome.
And they can play a role in both pre-sales and post-sales. They can become the bridge.
They’re different from traditional pre-sales or business consultants. Pre-sales consultants usually have a deep understanding of the software and can show how the software delivers direct benefits. They have great industry knowledge and understand the problems and challenges the industry faces. They can articulate how the software addresses the problems and challenges. They’re smart, competent and have good customer presence. The customers like good pre-sales consultants.
But the customer knows the job of pre-sales consultants is showing why the customer needs to buy more product. And that pigeon-holes them. They are part of Sales. So customers accept their advice, but with a pinch of salt. And most definitely, the customer does not expect to pay for work done by pre-sales consultants. Pre-sales consultants are part and parcel of selling the customer more product.
Success Consultants have a bigger role – they understand what’s required to achieve the Success Outcome. They have an appreciation not only of the software but of the processes, people skills and partners that play a role. When they write a business case, it’s a business case for a project not for the product.
Success Consultants address a broad range of issues. They don’t limit their focus to a set of problems the software can address. They identify everything the customer needs to achieve the success outcome. For many customers, this proves a godsend. Many customers struggle to understand everything they need to do to achieve their Success Outcome. It’s often the first time they’ve tried. They need guidance and help.
It doesn’t mean the Success Consultant can deliver every aspect. They may need the help of specialist consultants. But the Success Consultant provides the overall view. They provide the roadmap for achieving the Success Outcome.
Success Consultants focus on Success Outcomes, not products or services. They’re not pre-sales consultants selling products and services. They help with most of what the customer needs for success. And, because the achievement of a Success Outcome requires commitment from both customer and vendor, the work is a joint activity. Success Consultants and customer management work together. The Success Consultant isn’t selling product, they’re working with customer management to evaluate a project for business improvement. And defining everything needed for success.
So, customers see Success Consultants differently. They aren’t selling product. They’re helping define everything needed for success. And customers will pay for the Success Consultants’ advice and guidance.
And that changes the dynamic of pre-sales. The vendor doesn’t carry all the risk and expense. The customer now pays for some ‘pre-sales’ work. And the day rates for a Success Consultant should be high, to match their skill level and salary packages. But even at high day rates, good Success Consultants have too much work. The customers love them.
Bridging Pre-sales and Post-sales
The Success Consultant spends most of their time in pre-sales. But they also play a role in post-sales. They’ve helped the customer work out everything needed for success. In post-sales, they play a Quality role, helping keep the project focused on achieving the Success Outcome. They ensure the outcome discussed in pre-sales remains the focus in post-sales.
This article is based on the book; The Outcome Generation: How a New Generation of Technology Vendors Thrives through True Customer Success
Paul Henderson is an author, speaker and consultant on outcome-based customer success for technology vendors. His last role was leading the Asia Pacific region of an enterprise software company. He saw the potential that could come from delivering real and measurable business success for customers. So, he initiated a customer success program based on customer outcomes. He and his colleagues developed, modified and proved the model over more than five years. He thespent one a half years researching and writing, culminating in the release of The Outcome Generation.